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As Maryland reports another pandemic-low positivity rate, coronavirus-related hospitalizations increasing

As Maryland’s reported seven-day positivity rate for coronavirus testing continues to fall to record lows, the state’s hospitals have seen an increase in patients suffering from COVID-19 in recent days.

Maryland’s seven-day testing positivity rate, which measures the percentage of virus tests that return positive results during a week-long period, was a new low for the pandemic at 2.6% Wednesday, a decrease of .05 percentage points from Tuesday.

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The state has reported a positivity rate below 4% every day since Aug. 8 and under 5% since June 26, with Wednesday marking a fourth consecutive day below 3%. Maryland’s rate has declined for eight straight days, falling by more than a full percentage point in that span.

The World Health Organization recommends governments see 14 consecutive days of positivity rates beneath 5% before easing virus-related restrictions. Although Maryland has spent nearly three months under that threshold, it first began its reopening before hitting that benchmark.

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While that figure has declined, the number of virus-related patients currently in Maryland’s hospitals has increased over the past three days from 281, the state’s fewest since the early weeks of the pandemic in late March, to 332.

This marks only the second time since Aug. 1 that the state’s tally of current virus-related patients increased for three straight days. The three-day increase of 51 marks Maryland’s largest since late July, while the percentage increase in current patients, about 18%, is the state’s highest over any three-day span since early April.

The number of patients requiring intensive care increased by two Wednesday to 79. That figure has also risen for three straight days, the second such streak since mid-July.

Also Wednesday, Maryland officials reported 385 new confirmed cases of the virus and eight more deaths associated with COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. Wednesday’s additions bring the state to 121,297 confirmed infections and 3,756 fatalities during the pandemic’s six months.

Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center, which calculates positivity differently than the state, has Maryland’s seven-data positivity rate through Tuesday’s data at 5.15%, the 19th straight day that mark has exceeded 5% and the 24th lowest among all states. While Maryland determines positivity using tests conducted, Hopkins uses the people tested, meaning individuals who are tested multiple times, regardless of their results, are counted only once in the university’s calculation.

Of the more than 19,000 test results the state reported Tuesday, 2.63% were positive for the virus. Seven of the past eight days have featured single-day testing positivity rates under 3%.

Maryland has reported 2.4 million test results, with 1.5 million residents undergoing at least one test. Among those tested, 7.8% have received a positive result at least once.

About 38% of Wednesday’s new cases are in residents in their 20s or 30s, an age range representing 27% of Maryland’s overall population, according to U.S. census data. The state’s reported seven-day positivity rate in residents older 35 years old, 2.09%, is at its lowest point during the pandemic. The rate for those under 35 is 3.59%, declining from 5.05% eight days prior.

All eight victims reported Wednesday were at least 40 years old, with three being at least 80 years old. About 3% of residents who have had a confirmed infection of COVID-19 have died.

Residents and staff of nursing homes and similar long-term care facilities represent 13% of Maryland’s cumulative caseload but 57% of its death toll, according to state data.

Of the 344 confirmed cases for which the state reported the infected person’s race Tuesday, almost 54% were in residents who are Black, Hispanic or Latino, groups representing a combined 42% of Maryland’s overall population. White residents, 58% of the state’s population, were 41% of the new infections and account for 29% of the overall caseload for which race is known.

Despite representing nearly double the proportion of the state’s population, white residents account for nearly the same portion for Maryland’s virus-related deaths as Black residents, at 42% and 41%, respectively. Five of Wednesday’s eight victims were Black.

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About 15% of those infected in Maryland have not been identified by race, while the races of 10 of the dead are also not known.

Worcester County remains Maryland’s only jurisdiction with a reported seven-day positivity rate above 5%. Of the seven counties with rates exceeding 4%, four are in the Eastern Shore.

Baltimore, which reported a seven-day rate of 3.21% on Sept. 7, has been beneath 3% every day since and has spent six straight days with a rate under 2%.

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